The Oslo Diaries

Earlier today at Activehistory.ca, we released the newest episode of the History Slam. In this episode, I talk with Daniel Sivan, one of the directors of The Oslo Diaries, a new documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during the 1990s. We talk about the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the motivation to make the film, and the use of re-creations. We also talk about the Oslo accords, de-humanization in conflict, and the region’s future prospects for peace. The film has its Canadian premiere on Tuesday as part of Hot Docs in Toronto. You can find the show times as well as the full post, which includes my review, here.

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The Silence of Others

Originally Published at Activehistory.ca on April 26

The Silence of Others has its North American premiere on Friday April 27 at 6:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 in Toronto. It is also being shown on Saturday April 28 at 12:30pm at TIFF Bell LIghtbox 3. The directors and individuals featured in the film will be at both these showings and available for discussion and questions. There is a third showing on Saturday May 5 at 11:45am at Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 3. A wide Canadian release is also planned.

On November 20, 1975, Francisco Franco died, ending his nearly 40 year rule of Spain. While his death marked the end of his dictatorship, it also started the long process of coming to terms with the violence and suppression that marked those years. To address this, the Spanish government passed an amnesty law in 1977. The law not only provided amnesty to those who had been imprisoned for political reasons, but also those who had been part of the ruling party.

As a result, those who had perpetrated violence, including murder, throughout the Franco years would never be brought to justice. The overarching motivation for the amnesty law was that the country needed to forget what happened in order to overcome the political and social divides forged over the previous 40 years. ‘Why rehash the past?’ people would ask. ‘Just forget about it and move on.’

For the victims and their families, however, simply forgetting and moving on was not an option. Those who had been tortured for their political views or had loved ones murdered by a repressive regime were subjected a new form of suppression. Not willing to accept this, however, a dedicated group started to challenge the law and in using universal justice, a court in Argentina decided to hear their stories.

The movement and the subsequent lawsuit is the subject of the new documentary The Silence of Others. Following survivors and family members of those murdered by the regime, it tells a powerful story. It follows the highs and lows of fighting a battle through the courts in a country where a sizable percentage of the population has no desire to litigate the past. The raw emotion of those profiled, however, highlights the need to understand and remember what happened.

While the film is about Spain, it contains many universal truths. Similar stories where marginalized individuals struggle for recognition and justice could be told in pretty much every country around the world. The Silence of Others, therefore, has a message that will resonate with audiences far beyond Spanish borders.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Almudena Carracedo, one of the film’s directors. We talk about the amnesty law in Spain, the concept of universal jurisdiction, and how they came to this story. We also talk about the challenge of telling this story, the choice of images, and capturing emotion on camera. We finish with a chat about social memory, memorialization, and following the story moving forward.

Studying and Interpreting the Bible

Originally posted April 4, 2018 at Activehistory.ca

In the world of history, so much of the work we do is based on interpretation. Whenever we walk into a museum, read a book, and visit a historic monument, we are consuming, at least a little, somebody else’s interpretation of what happened. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but rather something that should always be kept in mind when studying the past.

The same is true of religion. Various individuals have read the same religious texts and come to incredibly different interpretations. All one has to do is look at the Crusades as an example of how this can negatively influence a society. But at the same time, interpretation has led to positive developments for some religious organizations. Just like with any other historical study, therefore, it is essential to understand the context in which the texts were written and how that can shape our interpretation.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Rev. Canon Rob Park from St. George’s Anglican Church in Georgetown, Ontario. With Passover and Easter over the weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about the way in which Priests are taught the Bible, the way in which personal experience shapes interpretation, and the differences between the gospels.

Use and Abuse of Patriotism in Sports

The 2018 Paralympic Games came to a close on Sunday, thus completing another Olympic cycle. The next major international sporting event comes this summer when Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup. And right now, March Madness, one of the most bet-upon sporting events on the calendar, has the NCAA in the spotlight.

What’s interesting about these events is that, during the competitions, the athletes are at the forefront of the media attention. The stories that emerged from Pyeongchang over the past month have been remarkable. From Scott Moir and Tessa VIrtue’s triumph to the gut-wrenching semi-final loss of the Canadian wheelchair curling team, these sporting events are wrought with emotion. From the elation of winning to the pain of losing, people from around the world wave their countries’ flags in support of their athletes – and in the NCAA case, people root for their alma mater.

All the while, companies capitalize on the emotional attachment to the events to try to sell us stuff. The Olympics, World Cup, and March Madness all feature targeted ads based off our patriotism (most professional and collegiate teams refer to themselves as ‘nations’) while at the same time highlighting the amazing performances of the athletes.

What gets left out, however, is the backdrop against which these events take place. The International Olympic Committee has been known to have executives made outlandish demands of host committees while at the same time demonstrating a remarkable level of disinterest in the host cities’ financial state, so much so that they are having difficulty finding places that want to host the Games. FIFA has had plenty of examples of corruption and bribery, particularly when it comes to the next two World Cups. As for the NCAA, the highest paid employee in 39 of the 50 states is a men’s basketball or football coach. The players, however, don’t get paid and, in a lot of cases, are subject to tougher restrictions on movement and outside financial opportunities than the adults who are, allegedly, teaching them about responsibility.

But these things don’t get the same attention or scrutiny as the games and results. I’ve often wondered if that’s because these sports so effectively capitalize on patriotism to draw us in. By doing so, we are not watching somebody else. Instead, we are included in the action, which is why so many people talk about how many medals ‘we’ won when referring to their home country. By creating an environment in which the audience has a vested interest, it becomes much easier, if not a necessity, to ignore the seedy underside of these events.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with co-host of the Game of Stones Podcast Scott Graham about the use and abuse of patriotism in sport. We talk about the negative side of international organizations, whether we can separate the events from the organizers, and if these systems are based on exploitation. We also debate the benefits of international sports and how to best consume these events.

From Left to Right

It’s Wednesday, which means a new episode of the History Slam over at Activehistory.ca. In this episode, I talk with Brian Thorn about his book From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada. We talk about the book’s origins, the nature of women’s activism on both the left and right of the political spectrum, and the issues supported by those on both sides. We also talk about women’s participation in the political process and the book’s connection to the current events. You can find the full post here.

Blood, Sweat, and Fear

Earlier today over at Activehistory.ca, the History Slam returned from its winter hiatus. And we came back with a good one as I got to  talk with Jeremy Milloy about his book Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry, 1960-1980. In the episode, we talk about what constitutes violence in the workplace, why he chose to study the auto industry, and the decline of collectivity. We also chat about violence’s role in productivity, how gender and race influence violence, and how universality of these issues. You can find the full post here.

Live Blog from the Continental Cup of Curling

All day Friday I will be live blogging from the Continental Cup of Curling in London, ON

21:18 – Ulsrud just tried to throw one on its side and Shuster did a 1080 on his throw. Entertainment personified.

21:17 – Not that it’s a bad thing.

21:16 – Time for some fun with John Shuster up 8-3 on Thomas Ulsrud after 7. Teams burning rocks, throwing spinners, and a spin-o-rama by Matt Hamilton. This is what happens when teams aren’t allowed to shake unless it’s mathematically impossible to win.

21:07 – That being said, the awareness caused about clubroot and pod shatter is invaluable.

21:06 – On the monitor on the media bench they are showing the TSN feed and I am reminded that the best part of going to live curling is not being subjected to the same 4 ads that they run on a loop after each end.

20:44 – More donuts were delivered to the concourse, but they have gone quickly. Only the unglazed plain remain.

20:26 – On a related note, the Brazilians are in their green jerseys tonight.

20:25 – Team Brazil steals a point in the fifth end and its 3-2 for Canada after 5. The Canadian crowd loudly cheers the steal. That’s a curling crowd.

20:18 – As the TV game hits the fourth end break, the TSN crew stretches their legs by heading to the concourse. As they head down the somewhat swaying scaffolding we’re on, one of them describes the setup as ‘brutal’.

20:07 – Thomas Ulsrud down 5-0 after four playing against the John Shuster and his American Olympic team. Even when down they look happy, but that’s mostly the colourful pants.

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19:59 – Brazil down 3-1 after four ends in what has been, by far, the best game they’ve played this week. They probably won’t win, but they are putting up a fight.

19:41 – Matt Hamilton runs across two sheets to shake Trudeau’s hand. He then has a chat with some fans behind the sheet before returning to the game. When will that guy finally come out of his shell?

19:32 – Justin Trudeau makes an appearance on the Team North America bench

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19:10 – Four games on the go tonight. Rachel Homan back on the ice for the first time today after a couple big losses yesterday. There is also a re-match of last year’s world championship final between Brad Gushue and Nicholas Edin. And, of course, the Brazilians are trying to stave off elimination in the best-of-5 series for a spot in the world championships.

19:01 – Curling Canada landed on Norway on the spin-the-wheel-play-an-anthem game tonight.

18:34 – To prep the crowd for the evening draw in the arena, a one-man band is cranking out some hits. One fan openly criticizes the music, thus highlighting why we can’t have nice things.

17:58 – Ben Hebert has the crowd in the palm of his hands. When he retires he will get a job on either TSN or Sportsnet calling games with a lot more ease than he throws his in-turn.

17:45 – Kevin Koe talking about Team.Jacobs: “I know they come across a little rough of tv, but they’re good guys.”

17:07 – Between games a big crowd at the Patch (given the weather not much desire to go outside). Plus the Koe team (minus a sick Brent Laing) here for the Up Close and Personal

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16:40 – The Brazilians triple their score from last night with a single in the eighth end and its handshakes with an 8-3 score. There may or may not be fans in the stands hoping that the Howard team heads to the Patch between games in the hope that this will make the night game more exciting.

16:32 – Interesting side note from this afternoon’s game – Emma Miskew was the only woman to throw the middle 3 stones for her team. All the other teams had the men throw the middle three. Asked about it, teammate Ben Hebert said that she is a better hitter than him and he is a better sweeper, so it makes more sense for them to have that configuration. Miskew agreed with that assessment.

16:30 – It is a sweep for the North Americans and they take a 9-6 lead in the overall   heading into tonight.

16:11 – On the other sheets, North America is in position to sweep the mixed doubles round. Playing teams whose players don’t speak the same language may be proving to be an advantage for the North Americans.

16:09 – Brazil scores and it’s now 6-2. If there’s one thing we’ve really noticed up here on the media bench is that the Brazilians aren’t relying on their sweepers much. Too many overthrows have really hurt them this afternoon.

16:03 – With Howard up 6-1 in the sixth end, second David Mathers looks like he would rather be anywhere else.

15:50 – John Shuster is playing with Joanne Courtney this afternoon and, despite the fact that he’s a skip, who tend to be pretty mediocre sweepers, has been doing a pretty good job. He also lost about 35 pounds in the past few months in preparation for the Olympics, which seems to be helping today.

15:37 – They have run out of donuts in the concourse. This has the potential to be the story of the afternoon.

15:16 – After three ends Canada is up 3-1 on Brazil is what is, to me, by far the most compelling game on the ice.

14:54 – The Brazilians have changed from their blue shirts to their white shirts for today’s game. Perhaps the fashion alteration has helped with the performance.

14:53 – Team Brazil is playing Glenn Howard in game 2 of a best of 5 series for a spot in the world championships this spring. Howard scored 7 in the first end last night en route to a 15-1 win. This afternoon’s game starts with a blank end.

14:31 – No national anthem this afternoon. With only six countries and 11 draws, we are spared from anthems for 5 draws this week.

13:55 – The morning rain in London has changed to snow – and a somewhat violent snow at that. Look out for the TSN crew to focus on the humidity caused by people coming in with wet boots and coats when talking about the ice this afternoon. I predict it will be given a Bryan Mudryk stand up hit from ice level.

13:25 – With mixed doubles starting in an hour, people are celebrating by having doubles of mixed drinks.

12:41 – Lunch time in London

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12:05 – Spoke with Japanese skip Sutsuki Fujisawa after her team’s win over Michelle Englot. Talking about her team’s first Olympic appearance next month, she said they “are so excited” and have lots of support back home. Said it was the country’s first Olympic berth in 20 years and she’s excited for the experience.

11:52 – Talked to Ben Hebert after his team’s 8-4 win and asked if there was a difference between heavy hack and easy board. He smiled and said no: “Just be close to the right weight.”

11:40 – Just got word that WADA is here doing doping tests. Fortunately alcohol isn’t a banned substance so all the players should be fine.

11:23 – Two shots later and De Cruz scores two to cut the lead to 7-4. I guess that’s why I’m up in the press box and they’re going to the Olympics.

11:20 – Peter De Cruz’s Swiss team is down 7-2 and Kevin Koe is sitting 4. Analytically speaking, this is not good for them.

10:59 – Despite some good shots and interesting ends, the crowd has been, let’s say subdued, so far. That must mean that The Patch made some money last night.

10:36 – It’s the fourth-end break for most of the games and it’s pretty even so far. North America with the lead in one, World holds one lead, and the third game is tied.

9:40 – Michelle Englot’s team is playing the Japanese team and is the TSN feature game this morning. That’s mildly surprising. What’s much more surprising is that Vic Rauter is calling the game. He usually takes mornings off, but this will be two straight days of calling all three draws. Is this part of Bryan Mudryk’s scheme to take over the play-by-play duties by slowly wearing Vic out?

9:32 – Because so many countries are represented here, they are playing one national anthem before each draw. This morning it’s the American national anthem and everyone appears to be standing.

9:25 – Practice is over and we are ready to go for day 2. The day starts with Team World leading 5-4 in the overall.